Downtown’s Lurra Cocina features ICI grad

Nickolas Illingworth stands at fhe front counter of Lurra Cocina restaraunt at 1420 Locust in downtown Des Moines.

Nickolas Illingworth stands at fhe front counter of Lurra Cocina restaraunt at 1420 Locust in downtown Des Moines.

A nomad journey through Europe and an “eat, pray, love” attitude influenced this chef to open up his own restaurant in downtown Des Moines three months ago.

Nickolas Illingworth, Indianola native, is the head chef at Lurra Cocina, with his business partners, is working to make his dream of opening up a restaurant a success.

Illingworth opened a fresh and brand new Spanish cuisine restaurant on Locust Street. He is a graduate of DMACC’s Iowa Culinary Institute (ICI) Program.

Through binge watching cooking shows on IPTV and helping out his parents with meals, he knew that he found a career that fitted his desire.

“Growing up as a kid, I watched my parents cook a lot. Honestly, just watching IPTV and watching either the carpenter or cooking shows and knowing that one of them would be in my future,” Illingworth said.

Illingworth soon followed his passion of cooking by moving to Des Moines eight years ago and attending DMACC’s culinary program. He also met his wife, Bailey, and started his life in Des Moines.

Illingworth decided on DMACC because he believed that it was in the right place and he could grow easily after graduation.

“The program [DMACC ICI] is great and you can take a lot out of it,” he said. “I guess the best thing I learned from the program is to be more open minded with new foods and trying things that are out of my comfort zones.”

Under the guidance of Lorie Dowie, whom is deceased, and Executive Chef Robert Anderson, he was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to study aboard.

When he graduated DMACC, he was one of the eight students in the program who had the chance to travel to France and work in a French kitchen.

However, that is not where he found his inspiration for Lurra Cocina

He went on a 15-day journey through Europe, mostly Spain and France, with his friend C.J. Bienert, owner of The Cheese Shop in Des Moines. This inspired them to develop their own restaurants.

Soon after his backpacking escapade in Europe, his long-life friend Mike Crownover presented him with the opportunity to become the head chef of one of his new restaurants.

Illingworth’s journey and eating his way through Spain influenced him to create a menu based on the Spanish flavors that he had discovered. Soon after he determined the type of food the restaurant would serve, Crownover and another friend of Illingworth, contractor Spencer Vandeberg, developed Lurra Cocina.

For those considering culinary arts and becoming a head chef, Illingworth has words of advice: “I recommend working in a restaurant for a year or two before fully committing yourself to this career,” he explained. “It takes a lot of dedication and time to follow this career.

I believe that it takes a special type of breed to be a chef, – it’s not as glamorous as TV perceives it – but I believe that with enough passion, it is worth the effort.”

Lurra Cocina is open for lunch Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. As for dinner, it is open every night until 10 p.m., with the exception of Friday and Saturday nights when it is open until 11 p.m.

For reservations and more questions, search their website:, or contact via email:

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